Major cuts to CAP budget 'unacceptable', EU farmers warn
EU FARMING organisations have warned European leaders meeting in Brussels today to thrash out a deal on the EU budget that major cuts to farm spending over the would be ‘unacceptable’.
At a press conference in Brussels on Thursday, leaders of Copa and Cogeca, the umbrella bodies for EU farming organisations, launched a staunch defence of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is facing big cuts as part of the EU budget package for 2014-2020.
They insisted agriculture makes a ‘huge contribution’ to the EU’s 2020 strategy for growth and employment and that proposals on the table ‘jeopardise food security and employment in EU rural areas’.
A paper by European Council president Herman Van Rompuy proposes a €25bn cut in the CAP budget, significantly beyond the 12 per cent reduction in real terms proposed by the European Commission.
Copa president Gerd Sonnleitner said farmers’ incomes were half the average level of earnings in other sectors yet food demand is on the increase. He said the EU agri-food sector employs 40 million people and is central to economic recovery and stability in Europe.
“These latest proposals would result in huge cuts in direct payments to farmers of up to 30 per cent in some countries which is totally unacceptable, and risks threatening food security and causing increased unemployment,” he said.
“More and more farmers and agri-cooperatives are going out of business, constrained by high production costs which are often not covered by market prices, poor weather conditions and extreme market volatility. Farmers in Europe also have to comply with high food safety and environmental standards which imports to the EU do not have to meet,” he said.
Cogeca president Christian Pees also described Mr Van Rompuy’s proposed cuts as ‘not acceptable’.
He pointed out that while the CAP represents more than on-third of the EU budget, agriculture spending amounts to less than 1 per cent of EU public expenditure and ‘has been falling continuously for many years’.
Meanwhile countries like the US, China and Brazil are investing strongly in their agricultural sector to maintain competitiveness, economic growth and feed an increasing population, he said.
He called for EU agricultural spending to be maintained at current levels until 2020 ‘to ensure farmers and their cooperatives can continue to provide secure, safe food supplies to 500 million consumers’.
He also stressed the need for a ‘speedy decision’ on the EU budget and the CAP. “Farmers are currently delaying production and investment decisions because of uncertainty about the future CAP and if this continues it will have disastrous impact on employment in related sectors as well as market stability,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron met Mr Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in Brussels on Thursday, at the start of the two-day summit.
The Prime Minister described the Van Rompuy proposals as a ‘step in the right direction’ but said they did not go far enough and stressed that he would push for further reductions in spending.
He also set out the UK’s position on the rebate ‘that it was fully justified and we did not support any changes’, a Downing Street spokesman said .
“It was clear that there was a long way to go before we had a deal that reflected the difficult decisions being taken by member states. As the Prime Minister said this morning: “we are going to be negotiating very hard for a good deal for Britain’s taxpayers and Europe’s taxpayers and to keep the British rebate,” the spokesman said.